Less-Than-Black Friday: Ideas for a More Socially-Just and Sustainable Holiday

The other day, my friend Zach said, “I have a great idea for a bumper sticker!  It will say (excuse the language), “Fuck Black Friday.  Give thanks again!”

I’ve never really understood the hyper-consumerism that accompanies the holidays.  Even though I’ve often had a strained relationship with my family, I still love them, and I see them as the focus of the holiday season.  I just don’t quite understand why we’re expected to show our love for our families through rampant consumerism.  “Buy More Stuff.  That’s the way to celebrate the holidays.”

Though in some ways, I will undoubtedly participate in that consumerism (there are a few small things that I want to give to family and that I hope to receive), I also recognize that there are lots of ways to participate in this dance more responsibly.

Thus, here’s my 2nd Annual list of ways to celebrate in a more Socially Just and Sustainable way.

1.  Since I spent the other day baking tasty vegan rolls and vegan gravy for Thanksgiving, the idea of food in the holidays is definitely on my mind.  I love to eat.  I love to eat well.  And I am incredibly privileged to eat super well!  I also recognize the privilege that comes with being a vegetarian, and while I hope that folks reduce their meat consumption, I also don’t really see any sense in trying to convince everyone to stop eating meat.  However, in that, I am mindful of the environmental impact of meat consumption.  Eating turkey is wildly unsustainable (and the turkey-production industry really screws the farmers)!  How about beef or ham?  Well, if you choose to eat those, it’s like dumping 2400 gallons of water down the drain and burning 55 square feet of rainforest.  Thus, this holiday season, I encourage you to consider a vegetarian holiday meal!  Or perhaps consider having all-vegetarian sides with your turkey or ham or pot roast.

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What Haven’t You Learned to Love?

Yesterday my favorite poet, Andrea Gibson, posted the following as her Facebook status:

“If you were writing a love poem to one part of yourself you haven’t learned to love yet, what would it be?”

As of the time I write this, she has 125 incredible responses…

“My chatterbox.”

“My stomach.”

“My inability to love who I used to be.”

“My past.”

“My vagina.”

“Inability to beat my addiction.”

So much of the work that I do is finding ways to heal.  There is so much hurt wrapped up in the power, privilege, and oppression upon which our society is structured.  The pain is written in our bodies and on our souls.

The only way to move past this hurt is to find that space for self love.

This week’s post is a challenge to my readers.  Answer Andrea’s question with a poem of your own in the comments, 10 lines or less.  Have the courage to begin loving that part of you that you do not love . . . and begin with a poem.

Here’s my poem:

You’ve been a part of my life for a long, long time.
Perhaps too long . . .
But my hating you doesn’t bring us any closer to healing.
And I know that I cannot find peace with you
Until I find peace with the hurt that created you.
So little Jamie . . . know this:
Someone should have protected you.
Someone should have shielded you.
But they didn’t.
So forgive yourself…

 

Let this be a testament to healing . . . to love.

Occupy Denver has a Race Problem

I was recently talking about the race-related problems that I see in the #OccupyDenver movement with a friend, and he said, “Why don’t you reach out to your friends and allies, your contacts who are activists of Color?”

I responded, “While I support the general #Occupy movement, I do not trust the folks at #OccupyDenver nearly enough to welcome activists of Color into the movement.  I have worked hard to build trusting relationships and allyships with some respected community leaders of Color from around Denver, and there is no way I would risk jeopardizing those relationships for what I have seen as a poorly-organized group of activists at #OccupyDenver.”

Saturday at the #OccupyDenver march, I was reminded of exactly why I would not feel comfortable encouraging my allies of Color to attend.  Just before the march began, a group of Indigenous activists from the American Indian Movement of Colorado showed up with a group of protesters bearing signs opposing the Tar Sands Pipeline.

Upon their arrival, one of the White folks who identified himself as a member of one of the #OccupyDenver committees used the “People’s Mic” to say, “Our brothers and sisters from the Indigenous community have joined us!  Welcome them!”  People cheered.  Then our White activist friend went on with what he was saying.

It was as if he was saying, “Hey!  Look!  Some Brown folks joined us!  Yay Brown people!  Now look back over here at the White agenda!”  Essentially, the mention felt like little more than tokenizing.  “Our token Brown folks have arrived!”

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4 Things #OccupyDenver Must Do (Better) to Survive

Though the content below doesn’t deal expressly with the usual content of this blog (in its focus on power, oppression, and community), it does relate in that the #Occupy movement exists as a force to end the incredible economic inequality (and power and oppression therein) that exists in this country.   I need a space in which to publish this piece, so I figured here is as good a place as any.

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4 Things #OccupyDenver Must Do (Better) to Survive

“Non-violence is the constant awareness of the dignity and humanity of oneself and others; it seeks truth and justice; it renounces violence both in method and in attitude; it is a courageous acceptance of active love and goodwill as the instrument with which to overcome evil and transform both oneself and others. It is the willingness to undergo suffering rather than inflict it. It excludes retaliation and flight.”

– Wally Nelson, conscientious objector, civil rights activist, and tax resister

Having been closely watching and participating in the #Occupy movement in Denver and around the country, I understand that each iteration of the #Occupy movement is different.  In my time at #OccupyDenver, I have come to realize that it faces some grave challenges that it must address in order not only to remain relevant but to survive as part of a sustained social movement.  Obviously the list below is not comprehensive, but as an experienced activists with a Bachelor’s degree training in nonviolent movements and resistance, these are my humble suggestions, less so for how #OccupyDenver should respond but simply to begin (and continue) the conversation.

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My Take On Sex

I was recently approached by a student who saw me speak this summer.  He was responding to my posting of some amazing comics on sex and consent that I had posted on Facebook, and he asked me if I’d be willing to share my take on sex.  He expressed that he comes from a community that seems to only tell the story that sex should be saved for marriage, and he wanted to know another perspective.  After writing out my response, I realized that many of my readers (particularly my younger readers) might like to hear my take on sex.

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I was raised in a Catholic household and Catholic community where it was preached that sex (in any form) should not exist outside of Marriage and that anything relating to sex outside of Marriage should be treated with shame.

I take a very different tact. Sex is one of the most beautiful, complex, and vital aspects of human existence (and I suspect that those that preach abstinence until marriage only would agree with me). As such, we should experience as much of it as possible so long as we are responsible.

In my opinion and experience, sex is best experienced within a committed relationship where two people have agreed to be exclusive with one another and to explore their sexualities together. This doesn’t have to be within marriage. However, in my opinion, relationships should not exist solely to provide a means for sex. Relationships should be a beautiful tapestry, of which sex is one piece. And within that relationship, sex should only exist with an incredible amount of communication. The communication should be about when people are ready for different stages of sex, what people like and dislike in sex, and at the core of all this communication should be Consent. Our society talks about and does consent VERY poorly (which is why we have such a high rate of sexual violence). That is what the cartoon I posted was getting at.   I very much respect my friend who runs The Consensual Project, which I encourage you to check out. I have learned the most about myself and about sex when I have committed myself to a partner and where we have communicated extensively as we explored each other and our sexuality together.

Sex, though, doesn’t always (and perhaps shouldn’t always) exist in a relationship. Masturbation, for instance, is one aspect of sex that people should experience and not be ashamed of. It is natural, and it helps you to understand your body and your likes and dislikes. That being said, porn and masturbation are often linked, and in my opinion, porn tends to be a very destructive thing. Unfortunately, porn is usually created by men for men, and as such, tends to be really sexist and gives men unhealthy understandings of sex and relationships. I really like the approach of MakeLoveNotPorn. They help people to understand that porn is not sex that we should replicate in our relationships (at least not necessarily). That being said, don’t be ashamed if you have used or do use porn. There is even Feminist Porn out there, though it can be tough to find.  It is natural to want to explore porn. Just remember that it is not often a healthy depiction of sex or relationships.

Also, sex can and often does exist outside of committed relationships. I would be lying if I said that I have only explored sexuality in a committed relationship.  Sex outside of committed relationships can be a great way to connect with another person on a unique level, it can be fun, and it can be another great way to come to know oneself and one’s like and dislikes.  There are risks in sex outside of committed relationships (like there are risks to sex inside of committed relationships).  That is why sex, both in and outside of committed relationships, should be approached with a mind to safety. It should be safe with regards to the use of birth control and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention, but it should also be safe with regards to consent. I cannot stress enough how much consent needs to be a part of sex, particularly as people are first getting to know each other and don’t know what the other person is as comfortable with or what they like or dislike.

Growing up Catholic, I also had drilled into me that sex should only occur between a man and a woman. However, I understand sexual attraction much the same way that researcher Alfred Kinsey understands sexual attraction: It is a scale. Some people (though few) are only attracted to one gender. Most people, though, are attracted to many genders.  This is okay! This is natural (there are over 500 species in which homosexuality is found)! If part of your sexual exploration means exploration with people of different genders, that is great and nothing to be ashamed of (so long, again, as it is safe).

Lastly, I think that people should wait to experience sex for as long as possible and as they feel comfortable.  That’s why if people wait for marriage, that is totally great, and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.  Sex, for better or for worse, comes with a lot of adult responsibilities (potential for babies and STIs and the connection between sex and one’s very complicated human emotions), and as such, people should try to experience sex once they know they are ready for those responsibilities.  Also, the first time someone has sex, it is best (again) when experienced in a committed, loving relationship.

For more resources, I encourage you to check out The Good Men Project!  They post all sorts of articles relating to being a man and to sex, and they have some great stuff on the topic!

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I’m not the be all end all, though, so I encourage my readers to add to, disagree with, or offer their own perspectives on sex in the comments below so that the young man who approached me can benefit from our common wisdom!!